I’m a fan. I’ve always been a fan of music. I’ve hung on every syllable from the lips of singers. Their lyrics guiding me through good and bad times, happy, sad, the times I wasn’t sure and the times I wanted to party.
Their magical melodies and musicianship weaving a magical spell, saying all the right things, at the right time, the right vibe, the right reason.
Music does that to you, well, it does that to lots of us. Somewhere around early teenage years, it takes over.
When a singer or rock star dies, it’s tough, really tough. These people have been friends, best friends. They’re not supposed to die. They’re always supposed to be around.
These people have been constants in your life but all you’ve ever known them by is a song, standing in the same field at the festival as they play those songs, or perhaps in a small sweaty venue. You might get to reach out, to touch a hand. But you’ll never have a conversation, you’ll never have a pint or a coffee with them, you’ll never share jokes or tell stories. Yet, these people are constants, always there.
As the news broke of David Bowie dying, not just the music world, the world of arts, the LGBT community, fans, admirers and those who recognized how one man’s talent has inspired so much came together to pay tribute to try and comprehend how the ‘immortal’ David Bowie was gone.
The impact this man, this beautiful man, had through his vision of music, his fashion, his sexuality, cannot be understated.
Music fans gather in the greatest Bowie sing along in his native Brixton, grieving, reliving, pouring out the love for his music. Switching on a radio, putting on a TV news channel, the last time I’ve seen such public outpouring of emotion was when Princess Diana was killed in 1997.
In the middle of this outpouring of such immense love, admiration and disbelief, I met some people whose words chilled me. ‘Why would I be bothered about some random guy?’. ‘I think that the BBC news page is OTT’. ‘I don’t think much of Bowie’.
People grieve in different ways. No two people will ever look at life in the same way. When these people were surrounded by others who were shocked at the news of Bowie’s death, two things came to mind.
Even if you don’t like an artist’s music, there are very few people who have captured the hearts of the nation and inspired people to be who they want to be, to dare to be different. There are very few people who have had a lasting musical career and continued to release critically acclaimed albums until their last days. You have to recognise that.
I’m not sure that anyone has ever made such an impression on wider culture. Through fashion, art, innovative video, being one of the first musicians to have a website, being a pioneer in so many, many ways.
I feel sorry for the people who feel this way. Have they never felt when a singer or band sings those lyrics to you, to no one else on this planet? To you and you alone. Have they never fallen in love with music? Have they never felt empathy for another human being?
We’re all together in this thing called life. Together we make memories, we become friends, we fall out, we disagree, we have different political views but empathy. To survive, to actually live life to the fullest, to give and take as much as we possibly can, to make this a better world, we must look at how the other person feels. If we can’t recognise the brilliance of artists, the impact of their lives, how can we strive to better ourselves? It’s empathy that makes us human.